Vote.org breaks voting records across the United States in 2020
by Andrea Hailey, CEO, Vote.org
Democracy doesn’t take a day off – and neither has Vote.org this year. In the week since Election Day, I’ve been reflecting on all of Vote.org’s work over the last eleven months – and how our team, supporters, donors and voters drove record-setting turnout across the country.
As a civic engagement expert and life-long voting rights advocate, I was overjoyed to see so many millions of Americans exercise their rights, especially against a global pandemic, long lines, disinformation and even a hurricane. Nothing could keep voters from casting their ballots this year.
Vote.org food truck in Miami, FL.
Since our work began in 2016, we’ve had the honor to help more than 62 million voters register to vote, request an absentee ballot, verify their registration and more. But 2020 was our biggest year by far.
By Election Day, 34 million voters used Vote.org tools, including:
- 9.4 million registration verifications
- 3.7 million new voter registrations
- 3.3 million voters absentee / mail-in ballot requests
- 16.5 million polling location look-ups
And of those 34 million voters, 44% are under 30 and more than half are women.
Our data shows us that Vote.org voters follow-through on their commitment to vote: more than 70% of people who use our tools cast a ballot. I can’t wait to see that success rate go even higher when the 2020 data arrives.
Civic leaders, media, influencers and community organizations trust Vote.org’s accuracy. Over the last few months, everyone from Stacey Abrams and the New York Times to Taylor Swift and Black Voters Matter sent their audiences to Vote.org to get the latest information on how, where and when to vote.
But we aren’t just the most widely-used voting platform – we’re also the most strategic. Vote.org goes after the hardest to reach voters, the people our election systems are designed to leave behind.
Sometimes our work for under-resourced voters is straightforward, like developing seamless online registration tools to reach young voters who do everything from ordering groceries to finding love on their phones. Our in-house engineers are constantly developing and optimizing our tools to simplify political engagement processes, making Vote.org the first choice for voters under 30.
But in 2020, we had to reach a new, unexpected category of voters: people without printers. The COVID-19 pandemic threatened to keep millions of elderly, at-risk or marginalized people from voting. To request a mail-in ballot, states like Alabama required voters to print, sign and mail an application, disproportionately impacting people without access to a printer.
Vote.org saw the problem early and was the first to develop tools to print and mail ballot request forms directly to voters. Our extensive Print and Mail Program allows any eligible voter to contact Vote.org and within a few days receive their printed application, along with a postage-paid envelope to return the form to their local election officials. By providing paper forms, envelopes and postage, we helped millions of voters secure a mail-in ballot in 2020’s general election.
We also invest resources in effective offline strategies, targeting voters too often overlooked by both political parties. In 2020, we did this by:
- Lobbying companies to help their employees vote. Of the more than 100 million eligible voters who did not cast a ballot in the 2016 general election, 35% said that scheduling conflicts with work or school kept them from getting to the polls. Our ElectionDay.org campaign recruited more than 1,000 companies in 2020 – from small businesses to corporations like Apple, Shake Shack and T-Mobile – to provide over a million employees with paid time off to vote.
- Broadcasting pro-voting radio ads to communities like Navajo Nation, who are showing a 4% increase in turnout this year according to early reports. Across the country, our terrestrial radio ads reached 36 million potential voters and streaming ads reached another 1.3 million people.
- Combating disinformation in communities like Flint, Michigan, where Election Day robocalls targeting Black communities told people they could vote later in the week – an explicit attempt at voter suppression. Vote.org immediately sent out 14,283 text messages to Flint voters to make sure they had the facts.
- Sending food trucks to serve meals and provide election protection information to 40,500 voters waiting in long lines to vote early. Vote.org deployed food trucks to 13 cities including Atlanta and Philadelphia, prioritizing polling locations that served communities of color and / or low income voters.
- Leveraging technology partnerships to engage first-time voters. Vote.org worked with Fresh EBT, an app that helps SNAP recipients manage their benefits, to register more than 80,000 voters and help another 285,000 verify their registration or request a mail-in ballot.
- Buying billboards in high-traffic areas in underserved communities. More than 17 million people saw our billboards asking them to vote this year.
- Translating our tools into Spanish and partnering with WhatsApp on a Spanish-lanugage voting info bot. Our Spanish-language polling place locator received 6.5 million views during election week.
Through both online and offline strategies, we reach more underserved, first-time voters than any other platform – and we stick with them beyond Election Day. In the last two weeks, we’ve helped 10,305 voters cure their ballots in Georgia.
But our work isn’t done. Right now we’re scaling up efforts to make sure every eligible voter can cast a ballot in the Georgia runoff election.
And in the years ahead, we’ll be pushing for voting reforms to make it easier for all Americans to vote, including universal access to mail-in voting, paid-time off to vote, expansion of early voting and same-day registration, and more.
Our work to rebuild a healthy democracy does not stop in November. We are here for voters 365 days a year, every year – and we need your support. Please donate to Vote.org today to contribute to our work in Georgia and beyond.